Colin Gleadell spoke to gallerist Simon Lee about his efforts to exploit the late “spray” works of Hans Hartung. This month, Nahmad Contemporary will open a New York show on January 12 featuring Hartung’s work from the 1950s on; Gallerie Perrotin will look at Hartung’s entire career; and Simon Lee will open in London on the 17th with a show of works from the 1980s in cooperation with the artist’s estate.
“There is a lot of interest coming from successful younger artists like Christopher Wool and Wade Guyton and those who collect their work, because of the way Hartung embraced new technology in his later years,” says Lee. “It’s incredible that in his last year, confined to a wheelchair, he managed to complete some 360 large-scale paintings.” Even before the shows open, the late works are selling fast with prices ranging from €140,000-400,000.
The Tate has some more detailed information the artist’s last days. Though impacted by a stroke, Hartung still kept up a furious pace of production. There were more than 650 of the late canvases created in the three years Hartung worked with the spray gun.
That’s a significant body of work from an historically validated artist, the perfect recipe for today’s market that likes volume and perceived value. There’s even good precedent in the success of abstract work over the last few years by younger artists who produced at similar volumes. Their paintings may have declined from the 2014 highs. But there’s nothing to suggest that this push by three galleries known for their secondary market prowess can’t do far better with Hartung’s.
Lucien Smith buyers, take heart!